Booming Job Market for Solar Energy
The Solar Energy Industries Association annual report indicates that the market for solar power nearly doubled last year. The increased demand created thousands of new jobs and enabled the industry to buck the declining employment trend that many other sectors sustained.
“The solar industry added 17,000 new jobs coast to coast,” Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA told the Mercury News. “Residential installations grew from 78 megawatts in 2008 to 156 megawatts in 2009.”
The report gave a great deal of credit to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for stimulating the job market and nationwide trend toward solar power. Features of ARRA that were noted in the report include:
- the Treasury Grant Program that allows the commercial tax credit to be taken as a cash grant for a limited time and lifted the $2,000 cap on the residential investment tax credit for solar thermal installations;
- elimination of penalties for subsidized energy financing, encouraging state and local programs that subsidize solar installations without penalizing the customer,
- creation of a 30-percent manufacturing investment tax credit (MITC) for equipment that makes renewable energy components.
- DOE’s funding allotments under the ARRA, including$115 million from the Solar Energy Technologies Program, $1.6 billion from Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs), $2.7 billion went to fund Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants and $3.1 billion was provided for State Energy Program (SEP) grants.
The SEP grants were specifically noted for helping support the deployment of solar energy equipment around the country.
The solar boon had a particular impact on SolarCity, a California based corporation specializing in designing and installing solar panels. They nearly doubled their work force to 600 last year, according to spokesman Jonathan Bass. In 2010, they expect to add another 250 jobs to help service solar enthusiasts in California, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Colorado.
“About half of the jobs are installing jobs, and we’ve hired people from the construction and roofing industries. The balance of the jobs are in sales and marketing and engineers. These are full-time jobs with full benefits and 401(k)s.”
Unsurprisingly, California led the way in shifting toward solar power, installing 220 megawatts last year, compared to New Jersey which was a distant second at 57 MW. The surge pushed California to a cumulative total of 1,102 MW of solar power, nearly nine times as great a capacity as second place New Jersey’s 128 MW.